By The Sports Xchange
MIAMI — Not even the ejection of 30-plus-homer, 100-plus-RBI man Matt Kemp on his 32nd birthday can stop the red-hot Atlanta Braves, who have won seven games in a row — their best streak in two years.
Adonis Garcia’s ninth-inning single drove in the go-ahead run as the Atlanta Braves continued to haunt the Miami Marlins with a 3-2 victory on Friday night at Marlins Park.
Kemp’s replacement, Mallex Smith, ended the game with a diving catch in left field as the last-place Braves (63-91) improved to 11-6 against the Marlins (76-78) this season.
“I feel like our team is fighting for a playoff spot — they play like that,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker. “I guarantee you that teams don’t want to play us right now.”
Snitker and Kemp were both ejected in the third inning after the plate umpire called a strike against Braves hitter Nick Markakis that they felt should have been ball four and an RBI since the bases were loaded.
But the Braves didn’t let their frustration linger.
Pinch-hitter Emilio Bonifacio started the ninth-inning rally with a one-out single off of closer A.J. Ramos (1-4). Bonifacio stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher J.T. Realmuto.
Bonifacio scored when Garcia, with two outs and a 2-2 count, stroked his single to left.
Garcia said he got extra energy from Snitker, who came to the defense of the team when he thought they got a raw deal from the umpire.
“The manager getting ejected gives you so much motivation,” Garcia said in Spanish. “That lifted everyone’s emotions.”
Miami tried to rally in the bottom of the ninth as pinch-hitter and ex-Brave Jeff Francoeur drew a one-out walk. Pinch-runner Yefri Perez tried to steal second but was thrown out by Braves catcher Tyler Flowers.
The Marlins challenged the call but to no avail.
“It was really close,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “But it was not definitive.”
With two outs and no one on, Justin Bour lined a ball to left, but Smith — of course, the way Atlanta is playing — charged in to make the diving grab.
Flowers had a big game for Atlanta. In addition to the big throw to get the speedy Perez, Flowers also had an RBI single in the second and an RBI double in the sixth.
Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman went 1-for-3 and extended his career-long hit streak to 27 games. It’s the longest active hit streak in the majors and the longest by a Braves player since Dan Uggla went on a 33-game run in 2011.
Neither starting pitcher earned a decision. Atlanta’s Matt Wisler allowed two runs in six innings. Miami’s Andrew Cashner allowed one run in five frames.
Atlanta used three relievers, including Mauricio Cabrera, who pitched a scoreless ninth to get his sixth save of the season. Brandon Cunniff (2-0) earned the win, pitching a scoreless eighth.
Miami, with its first three batters reaching, got to Wisler quickly, scoring twice in the first inning. Derek Dietrich walked on four pitches, Marcell Ozuna singled, and Martin Prado hit a two-run double to left-center. With that hit, Prado increased his batting average with runners in scoring position to an NL-best .377.
Atlanta, with its first three batters reaching in the second inning, cut its deficit to 2-1. Kemp walked on four pitches, Markakis singled, and Flowers hit an RBI single.
The Braves tied the score in the sixth. Freeman hit a leadoff double and took third when right fielder Giancarlo Stanton dropped the ball. Flowers then doubled just over the glove of Stanton in deep right field.
Stanton is still not 100 percent from a groin injury, which limits his mobility.
“That’s the risk-reward,” Mattingly said of having Stanton’s in the lineup for offense but willing to deal with limitations on defense. “He hit two balls that he just missed on, to the wall. That’s really what we’re gambling for.”
NOTES: Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez has struck out 34.3 percent of the 737 batters he has faced this year, fifth-best in baseball history if he stays at that rate this season. … The Marlins named RHP Luis Castillo and 3B Brian Anderson their Minor League Pitcher and Hitter of the Year, respectively. Miami traded Castillo to the San Diego Padres on July 28 as part of a package of players that brought back RHPs Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea. Castillo was returned to Miami when Rea was sent back to San Diego due to an elbow injury. …Braves 3B Adonis Garcia, in his first 66 games since July 5, hit .302 with 40 RBIs, and that was before his ninth-inning heroics on Friday.